Attention Deficit Disorder; Can It Be Used As An Asset For Entrepreneurs?

All of the following people have something in common; Sir Richard Branson owner of Virgin Airlines, David Neeleman owner of JetBlue, and Paul Orfalea founder of Kinko’s and a serial entrepreneur. They all have some form of ADD/ADHD. A few other entrepreneurs have another learning disability, dyslexia, and find ways to overcome; Charles Schwab and Alan Meckler of WebMediaBrands. But not everyone has successful results. About 4% of Americans have Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder Hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD). Many in the general public think this disorder revolves around being lazy or having no get up and go, but this could not be further from the truth. This disease is a real disorder and can be paralyzing if the individual does not learn some coping strategies. For someone with ADD/ADHD, everything is a distraction! It is like being the crazy chef in the kitchen with every burner and cooking device being used or having 30 sessions open on your browser. From the ticking of a clock, the cell phone notification noises, the sound of your partner chewing, a bird flying by, a sound of something falling from upstairs, television from the family room, family discussion, laughter, all while trying to write a research paper – yes, this is where I live!

If I shared with you the amount of money I have invested in planners and online planning systems, it would make you blush. All purchases were made with good intentions because I want to be organized. But the systems usually break down within the month with more money wasted.

I have been told I have a lot of energy and that is what people love about me but harnessing that power and putting into production is what I need to be doing. I talk with my hands, and I am very animated. I am also a toe tapper, finger roller and noise maker.

Ask the ones who actually know me and love me, I will be telling a story and right in the middle of it forget why I am even telling the story. Now put that in the perspective of giving a sales pitch or board room presentation, would you really want this person to be the one ‘working’ with your company?

There is treatment in helping you focus on tasks at hand, but sometimes this can turn into what is referred to as hyper-focus. This is dangerous for me! When I am working on a project and getting into this mode, granted I should be in bed each night at 9:30-10 pm so I can wake up at 3:45 am, but the next time I look at my watch, it’s midnight, and I am only going to get 3 hours of sleep. Or a family member comes into the study area and asks why you are awake and do you know what time it is?

I have had this learning disability all my life, but back when I was in elementary school, I was told I was slow and behind my classmates. Hum, how did I go from doing 5th-grade work in 3rd grade while I lived in Virginia to being put a level behind when I moved to Georgia? It was ADHD and dyslexia. But instead of learning coping skills, I became the class clown and entertained everyone! At one point in college, I was ready to quit, and my sister explained, “…sometimes a C is okay – it means average, you can’t be excellent in everything!” That is where I started taking pressure off myself, and by my senior year, last semester, I was making A’s. I bought a voice recorder, and it came to class with me every day. Each night, I had to review my notes with the recorder while everyone else went out to socialize, but I learned and retained the material.

Sometimes we forget details, have anxiety and may seem like a terrible friend. These will be all the thoughts you have about our friendship, but because we are friends, you snicker and love us anyway. We might need your extra set of eyes to review our idea or project. A mind buzzing with activity can start to think negatively and next thing you know, we are in a downward spiral and anxious over something that probably won’t even come true. And as your friend, our minds will drift while you are talking and we will forget about lunch dates or appointment times we set up but just know we will feel awful about it!

I have used some of the following tips to avoid killing my productivity and getting tasks done;

I can only ‘control’ my thoughts, my energy, and actions into being the best that I can be. Trying to please others can be exhausting.

I have to take breaks to trick my brain and reward it for staying engaged! I am always playing a game of 30 minutes of focus and then 15 minutes of reward. Varying the tasks is an excellent way to keep my brain engaged while giving me something to look forward to.

I try to focus on the task at hand and know eventually; I will be able to work on another task. I try not to allow the current or future task to become a distraction from the current project.

I try and let colleagues know how to best communicate with me. I hate email and do not want to get stuck in the email zone – it is boring and disengaging. Calling or sending me an app message allows me to respond quicker getting through the task individually or as a responsible team member (my text message service reads it to me).

I have tried to stop being Wonder Woman. I try to not set myself up for disappointment by thinking every task on my list will be completed, or the project I have envisioned will turn out exactly as I pictured it. Tomorrow is another day. I try and stay focus on the ‘must accomplish today’ items. When completing the task, the sense of accomplishment decreases stress and releases all types of good endorphins and hormones into the body.

When I have a large project, I have to make a plan; putting so many 30-minute focus task blocks down per day, then piecing the days available for that type of work. If I do not accomplish what is on the daily and weekly schedule, I reschedule and try again. Each day gets me closer to completing the task. Easier said than done for someone with ADD but tomorrow is coming, and you need to be ready.

I try not to get lost in the details and try and re-evaluate every 15 minutes (half of my 30-minute timer). Perfection is great if you have the time, but I usually do not. When I really need to get things accomplished, I always work with a timer.

The last point is a perfect lead-in for trying not to become, what I call, a perfectionist procrastinator – both keep you from completing your work. To get a task started, I come up with a simple outline plan and then add details. If I get worried about the project not being sound or possible failure, I try and run it past my inner circle (one of the reasons I am late with this assignment).

I catch myself talking about a project, a form of procrastination, when all I really need to do is take action on a project, even if for just for 10-15 minutes. I find when I get started, the whole anxiety of getting started starts to go away.

I need to avoid big, long to-do lists. They only get bigger and make me feel depressed. I try and put things on my calendar, and if it has to get done that day, that’s right, it get’s put on a timer! I drive my family crazy at times, but they know these strategies work for me.

So why do I share these things? Psychiatrist Ned Hallowell has written that people with ADHD are “natural entrepreneurs.” He has said he sees the condition not as a disorder, but “as an advantage. The reason: Individuals with ADHD possess innate energy, grit, creativity, originality, insight and interpersonal skills. And these are the ingredients of entrepreneurship.”

“The most important skill successful entrepreneurs learn—by instinct, consultation, education, experience or practice—is the skill of maximizing the benefits of their assets while minimizing the internal damage. I’ve learned that what separates successful from frustrated entrepreneurs is their ability—or inability—to capitalize on this. The great entrepreneur learns how to harness and direct mental power, while the frustrated entrepreneur spends life trying to learn how. Entrepreneurs and those with ADHD who find the pot of gold are the ones who learn how to master their minds, rather than letting their minds misdirect.” Dr. Hallowell goes on to explain, and I have experienced, that the mind of someone with ADD/ADHD, the brain is always in go-mode. It’s hard to ‘put on the brakes’ or ‘keep the filter in place’ with the mind going in 15 different directions. The ADD/ADHD entrepreneur must learn to slow down, focus and set up a plan. Easier said than done!

I actually hired Heather MacMillian, an ADD/ADHD coach, and worked with her from January 2016 through April 2016. She also worked with my daughter and my husband (my daughter has ADD and my husband PTSD/traumatic brain injury)! She taught me that the brain can be retrained and will believe what you tell it and what it sees. For instance, when you are watching a movie or playing a video game, and the video image comes to the edge of a tall building, you start to get feelings of scared, queasy, or an adrenaline type rush in your body. Why? The brain does not know the difference in the image and reality. If you stop and think about it, there is no danger, why does our body react this way? Our brain’s primary goal is to protect us, so we have to ensure that the brain has all the facts and keep the misperceptions to a minimum. Heather taught me some tactics of helping my brain retrain the way it perceives threats and rewards that drive my behavior. She explained to me our reaction patterns using the SCARF model. Dr. David Rock describes the SCARF model in a video link listed in the sources section below, and I have put together this brief write up about each of the items.

S (status) – Status is your perception of where you are in relation to those around us. If a person feels a drop in status, the brain activates the same circuit as if experiencing pain. Feedback can be perceived as a threat especially if negative.  And an increase in status activates a reward circuitry, almost the same as receiving a monetary reward

C (certainty) – ambiguity of any kind sets up a threat response. Providing information, details, dates can provide clarity and help lower a threat response perception

A (autonomy) – People need to know they have choices. When a person experience stress but has choices, this increases one’s leave of autonomy. And vice versa, a lower level of autonomy when you feel you have no choices

R (relatedness) – brain perceives those we do not know as threat (foe vs. friend) so when working in team created a common bond

F (fairness) – A fair exchange activates the reward circuitry, and an unfair exchange activates a danger response

Brain research explains the brain is looking to minimize danger and maximize reward. So when a threat response is perceived by the mind (sometimes we are aware, and sometimes we are not aware) the amygdala (emotional brain) sends a message, and the limbic system gets triggered into a Flight, Fight, or Freeze mode. The pre-frontal cortex shrinks because the body is now in protection mode and is sending blood away from the brain and to the limbs. Our executive functioning ability lessens, leading to poor decision making (which is a limited resource to begin with). As opposed to when someone makes us feels good (Status), we know the task and what to do (have Certainty). We can then think about the options and make our own choices (Autonomy), feel connected with individuals or a team (Relatedness) and feel treated fairly (Fairness).

Some tools to use when you notice a threat response (i.e. overwhelmed and can’t make a decision, feel threatened, want to ‘escape’ watch TV, have a list but are not working):

1)  Label it – say it out loud if appropriate – I am really overwhelmed/stressed/exhausted/feel hurt or demeaned etc

2) Take a few deep breaths and attempt to bring corners of mouth up in a slight smile (even if angry) because a smile sends a signal to the brain that everything will be okay.

3) Reframe the thought or statement or tell your brain even though I am overwhelmed, I am okay (no tiger charging at me – I am safe).

4) Ask yourself, what is one simple thing I can do right now, just one thing and take action.

5) FOCUS and get yourself in action to do that one thing.

6) Tell yourself, this is my brain, not me, and I can manage my ADD/ADHD.

Entrepreneurs – if this resonated with you, I challenge you to make an appointment with yourself once per day for a 30-minute focus session. Pull out your timers, stay focused and you will not believe after a week, how much work you have accomplished on your project.

I would love to get your feedback! 

Tabitha Myler is currently enrolled in the Masters of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. She has owned multiple businesses and been employed in a variety of industries; finance, marketing & advertising in destination marketing, insurance, and athletics. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2017 by Tabitha M Myler. Speaking engagements requests and contact information can be found at


Dr. Ned Hallowell. Success. July 18, 2014. February 17, 2016 (date of access).  < >

Neil Patel. Entrepreneur. January 13, 2016. February 17, 2016 (date of access). < >

Heather MacMillan. ADD/ADHD Life Coach. email address. Resource shared during coaching session; SCARF MODEL: by Dr. David Rock

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Plants As A Metaphor For Change

David Bowie wrote a song about it. Barnes and Noble has numerous books about it. And, Netflix has at least 30 movies that promise you will do it after watching them.  What is the subject that a musician, a book seller, and a streaming service all have in common? Change.  I’ve heard it said it takes 21 days to change a habit – maybe, maybe not. Change, in and of itself, is reality and there are many ways to cope with change.

How do we see change in our own lives?  Sometimes change can be so small that it feels as though nothing is happening. Think – losing weight or quitting smoking.  It can feel like you take five steps forward and 10 steps backward.  Other times, change can be brutal and fast. Think –  an unexpected death, illness or visitor from one’s past.  Perhaps one of these situations has resonated with you and has created change in your life. Many of us know how to measure change in life: pounds lost according to the scale, the number of smoke free days, how many days of exercise, etc. etc.

But what about the change that is happening around us all the time? How can we see it and how can we use it?  In January 2011, I started aggressive chemotherapy and was in denial of what the drugs would do to me.  I knew I’d lose my hair and although I read about all the other side effects, I thought, “nope, I’m in good shape, this is not going to happen to me.”  I was wrong.  About one month after starting treatment I received a nine-inch potted plant from a friend in Minnesota. He was in his 80s and taking care of his wife who had Parkinson’s disease.  The planter contained four different species of plants, and it was green and perfect for my small apartment.  I placed the plant on a table by the window and watered it every Sunday.  As I continued treatment, the plant thrived and eventually flowered.  I, on the other hand, was not thriving. Of course, all the hair fell out, then the neuropathy started, followed by ringing in the ears, loss of taste and extreme fatigue.

The plant became my metaphor for change.  The sicker I became, the more it thrived. I found it uplifting to see beauty in such a small container.  As years passed, I noticed the plant was struggling. I tried different locations in the apartment, more water, less water, more sun, less sun, yet nothing seemed to work.  It was still alive, but with little growth. It went a few years without even flowering.  Simultaneously, I was changing too. My hair grew back and, like the plant, I struggled to stay above the dirt.  When I moved to a new apartment, I repotted the plant thinking it needed more room for the roots.  It stayed alive but still did not flower and did not sustain much growth.

Four years after receiving the plant, I moved to a house and put it in the front window.  It had finally found its happy place.  Today, six years after receiving the plant, it sits in a 12-inch pot, still in the front window.  It is 24 inches tall and extends out into a 55-inch circle. The plant flowers at least once a month. The man who sent it to me lost his wife and about a year ago, I lost him. The last time I saw him, I shared the story of the five-year-old plant, but I think he barely remembered he had sent it.   The plant that had served as my constant reminder that change is right in front of us, always. The plant did well, then struggled, then did okay, then struggled and now, is flourishing. The plant had served as my constant reminder that change is right in front of us, always, and that as humans, some days (weeks, months, and even years) we may flourish, and others we may struggle. Sometimes I just stand by the plant and look out the window.  As it stands tall, I stand tall.  I am amazed by its beauty and its persistence despite the odds against it.  This fall, I looked out the window and saw a tree in the front yard covered in the most spectacular orange leaves I had ever seen and I almost cried. It was right out of a Vermont postcard and I live in North Carolina.  Now it is February and there are no leaves, just empty branches.  Like the plant, the tree changes too.  I remind myself that it will soon have new leaves. The tree, like my plant, is yet another illustration of how change is right in front of us, if we only take the time to notice it.

The plant has become my metaphor for change.  What will your metaphor be?  What around you can inspire you to make, cope with, accept and embrace change?

Cece Abby Krelitz is a Certified Hospitality Educator with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.  She is currently employed as a chef instructor, at Johnson & Wales University, in the Baking and Pastry Department. Cece is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a degree in Hotel Administration. She also is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, with a degree in Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts. Cece is currently enrolled in the Masters of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission if this article is used in its entirety, attribution is given and the author’s information and any links remain intact. Copyright 2017 by Cece Abby Krelitz.

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The Power of Resonance in Entrepreneurship

The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, especially in relation to developing and maintaining successful businesses. Over time, the definition of emotional intelligence has changed, but the core values have remained consistent. According to the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), emotional intelligence encompasses four key strengths (Humphrey, 2013):

  • Perceiving emotions accurately
  • Using emotion to facilitate thought
  • Understanding emotion
  • Managing emotion (Humphrey, 2013).

Since entrepreneurship involves a significant amount of risk, negation, and collaboration, harnessing EI competencies allows innovators to navigate this process more effectively and improve the likelihood for success. Entrepreneurs who can harness these intelligences to transform their innovations and motivate their constituents can more easily create the resonance needed to give their idea momentum.

When a leader can perceive and understand the emotions of others accurately and objectively, they create a strong groundwork for identifying with their constituents, and what motivates their values and beliefs. Through awareness of emotions, and a genuine understanding of their source, entrepreneurs can harness the power of emotional intelligence to breed familiarity, trust and support amongst individuals in their organization. A detached leader will eventually lose the support of his or her constituents, as they may gradually start to believe that their organization values profit over people, and lacks a personal understanding of the values and beliefs which drive these emotions.

Receiving honest feedback, while potentially difficult to ingest, provides a strong basis for change in an organization. Emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs use this feedback to facilitate new ways of thinking about their idea, thereby improving the collective creativity and problem-solving within their organization. When a leader can successfully transform feedback into action, he or she instills a feeling of mutual support, genuine concern and desire for action in others. This opens the pathway for continuous feedback from employees and partners, improving the overall success and momentum of an innovation or business endeavor. It also further strengthens an innovator’s ability to handle challenging negotiations or close gaps in performance within their organization, as they have a clearer idea of the source of these problems. Along these lines, transformative leadership improves an organization’s ability to foster personal and professional development, leading to greater job-satisfaction amongst employees. Similarly, the transformation of emotion into productive thought and planning instills confidence amongst investors and stakeholders, improving the innovation’s viability and likelihood for future success.

Most importantly, successful leaders should seek to manage their own emotions effectively. Entrepreneurs face many challenges through the process of innovation, and a leader who is easily derailed at the sight of a roadblock or challenge will struggle to maintain the progress of the endeavor. Leaders set an example through their behavior, and have a great amount of influence over the “tone” within their organization. Uncontrolled emotional responses amongst leadership can lead to increased workplace stress, decreased job satisfaction and productivity, and unexpected business failure. It can also discourage honest feedback or creative problem-solving amongst constituents, which hampers success, since entrepreneurs rely heavily on constituents to influence change, and develop and manifest ideas. Emotional control and a maintaining a constructive emotional response becomes critical for entrepreneurs. Ultimately, it allows innovators to more effectively interface with executors –  the individuals responsible for launching and developing the strategies which make a venture successful.

The process of innovating can be daunting, and endlessly challenging without the use of emotional intelligence competencies. Leaders can employ these competencies to develop better business strategies, align values within their organization, and inspire collaboration with stakeholders and constituents alike. As discussed, emotional intelligence paves the path to resonance, a growing concept in entrepreneurial and organizational success. It takes a dynamic individual to come up with a new idea, but an emotionally intelligent leader to transform that idea into a successful innovation.


Humphry, Ronald H. (2013). The benefits of emotional intelligence and empathy to entrepreneurship. Special Issue – A New Business Model: The    Emotional Dimension of Organizations, 3(3): 287-294. doi: 10.1515/erj-2013-0057.

Zakarevicius, P. & Zuperka, A. (2010). Expression of emotional intelligence in development of students’ entrepreneurship. Economics & Management, p. 865-873.

Jeanette Neuner is an entrepreneur, artist and thinker and is currently enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2017 by Jeanette Neuner.  

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